NCBI ROFL: How do miniature pigs discriminate between people? Discrimination between people wearing coveralls of the same colour.

By ncbi rofl | June 4, 2012 7:00 pm

“Seven experiments were conducted on four miniature pigs to determine: (1) whether the pigs can discriminate between people wearing the same coloured clothing; (2) what cues they rely on if they could discriminate. For 2 weeks before the experiments began, the pigs were conditioned in a Y-maze to receive raisins from the rewarder wearing dark blue coveralls.They were then given the opportunity to choose the rewarder or non-rewarder in these experiments. Each session consisted of 20 trials. Successful discrimination was that the pig chose the rewarder at least 15 times in 20 trials (P less than 0.05: by chi(2)-test). In Experiment 1, both rewarder and non-rewarder wore dark blue coveralls. By 20 sessions, all pigs successfully identified the rewarder. In Experiment 2: (1) both wore coveralls of the same new colours or (2) one of them wore coveralls of new colours. They significantly preferred the rewarder even though the rewarder and/or non-rewarder wore coveralls of new colours. In Experiment 3, both wore dark blue coveralls but olfactory cues were obscured and auditory cues were not given. The pigs were able to identify the rewarder successfully irrespective of changing auditory and olfactory cues. In Experiment 4, both wore dark blue coveralls but covered part of their face and body in different ways. The correct response rate decreased when a part of the face and the whole body of the rewarder and non-rewarder were covered. In Experiment 5, both wore dark blue coveralls and changed their apparent body size by shifting sitting position. The correct response rate increased as the difference in body size between the experimenters increased. In Experiment 6, the distance between the experimenters and the pig was increased by 30cm increments. The correct response rate of each pig decreased as the experimenters receded from the pig, but performance varied among the pigs. In Experiment 7, the light intensity of the experimental room was reduced from 550 to 80lx and then to 20lx. The correct response rate of each pig decreased with the reduction in light intensity, but all the pigs discriminated the rewarder from the non-rewarder significantly even at 20lx.In conclusion, the pigs were able to discriminate between people wearing coveralls of the same colour after sufficient reinforcement. These results indicate that pigs are capable of using visual cues to discriminate between people.”

Photo: flickr/Poetprince

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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